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Jeremy Scahill Outlines How Obama Made Assassination Formal US Policy

Editor’s Note

On May 5, I interviewed The Intercept’s Jeremy Scahill about the new book released this week, “The Assassination Complex.” It has a foreword from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and an afterword by The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald. The book collects the organization’s journalistic work based on the “Drone Papers,” which were provided to the media organization by a whistleblower, who disclosed top secret documents on the government’s expansion of assassination policy in warfare on, and away from, declared battlefields.

Scahill spoke with me for a little over 40 minutes. It was part of a series of web-based book events, which Shadowproof has planned for this spring. (We plan to have another series in the summer.)

Below is a transcript of the interview, and the full interview can be watched by clicking on the below player. —Kevin Gosztola

GOSZTOLA: What is the “assassination complex”? When we talk about the “assassination complex,” are we talking about a much larger system that includes, for example, the explosion of watchlisting, where people are intimidated and harassed? Typically, they are predominantly Arab Americans, and they have this experience when they try to fly on airplanes. Should we see that as a byproduct of this “assassination complex”?

SCAHILL: What’s interesting in regard to that question is one of the things that we published in this book is the statement by a whistleblower, who provided us with a copy of the 180-plus page of watchlisting guidance, which is really the government’s rule book for watchlisting. And it basically maps out a system where individuals have their data and metadata, their names, the people they are in contact with poured into several government databases, one of which has more than 1 million people and growing by the day. Everyone who goes into that system is preemptively categorized as a known or suspected terrorist.

I, for one, was on some form of a watchlist when I was doing a lot of travel to Yemen and Somalia, and I would come back into the United States, and I would get pulled aside and they would ask me if I had any weapons training, if I had been in the military. And then, when they would ask me who I was visiting in Yemen and Somalia, I would tell them I am a journalist. I’m not going to answer you. I’m under no obligation to do that. But I’m a white guy, and I am a journalist. I would often see Arabs and other Muslims in the detention center at JFK airport, Area B of JFK airport. I would often come in and see a room packed with people, none of whom were white. I would be called up to the desk before them, and I would be released after them.

Once I decided to stay because I was on a flight from Cairo back to JFK, and when we were sitting in the waiting area to board the plane, I was chatting with this young couple and sort of their kids were running around. When we landed, I noticed that this entire family was in Area B of JFK when I was pulled aside, and I went up to them to try to talk to them. Then the agents came up and said no talking in here. You can’t talk to them. And then I was processed before them. I was out, and I decided as a test case to wait and see when they came out and they never came out. So I don’t know what happened to them. Maybe they were deported, but this was a family with small children. They were terrified sitting in there.

The reason I tell that story is because you can end up on a watchlist because your phone number was discovered in the phone of someone else they were monitoring or someone else, who’s phone was in the phone of someone else they were monitoring. And no matter why you are in that database, you are designated as a known or suspected terrorist, a KST. Now, that information can trickle all the way to foreign governments and to state and local law enforcement in the U.S. So, if someone gets pulled over by a police officer and they run a check on someone, who happens to be a known or suspected terrorist because their name is similar to someone else’s or because their phone number was in the phone of someone that the U.S. government was monitoring, then they are in the situation where a local sheriff or a sheriff’s deputy is seeing someone is a known or suspected terrorist, which sounds like an extremely frightening thing.

Once you’re in that database, you are assigned what’s called a TPN number, and it’s basically like a terrorist tracking number. Every single person who has ever been killed in a drone strike intentionally, meaning the intended targets, has been assigned a TPN number. One of the things that has not gotten a lot of attention that we reported on is that 16-year-old Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, of course the son of Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed in a drone strike—This 16-year-old U.S. citizen kid was killed two weeks after his father while he was sitting, having a meal with his cousins, and one of the things that our source was able to provide us with was the fact that Abdulrahman al-Awlaki had a terror watchlisting number assigned to him.

Now, was it because they believed  he was a terrorist or was it because his father was top on a U.S. hit list? We don’t know the answer to that question, but every single person, every bit of innocuous information that gets put into that database results in you being labeled a known or suspected terrorist. Basically, what it is is that is the very first step of a process that can eventually lead to your death by a drone strike. But the vast majority in there are not people that are on the kill list. They are people who posted something on Facebook or Twitter, know people, have made phone calls abroad, or their data ends up in someone else’s phone.

So, the direct answer to your question is, yes, this explosion of watchlisting is directly related to the assassination program across the globe.

GOSZTOLA: Currently, there is a focus at least among I’d say human rights organizations toward whatever the Obama administration is going to put out in terms of how they’re going to count civilian casualties and what they’re going to do to show a little transparency because they’ve been so secretive about this. And my question to you is, based on your drone reporting, these papers, and what you’ve had come to you from sources, how should we understand the ways the Obama administration has been concealing civilian deaths? How might this coming announcement about civilian casualties represent an institutionalization of undercounting civilian deaths?

SCAHILL: First of all, the White House claimed they were going to put this out over a month ago, and what they said is we’re going to be—because you know we’re the Most Transparent Administration In History™—we’re going to be putting out this unprecedented level of detail about who we have killed in drone strikes outside of declared battlefields.

There are some initial leaks that are coming out that seem to indicate that they’re going to claim they killed somewhere around 60 individuals outside of Iraq and Afghanistan, which of course is just a shockingly ridiculous number given the credible and conservative reporting of the Bureau for Investigative Journalism. Even if you take some of the statistics from the New America Foundation, which is even more conservative, the idea that there would only be a few dozen people killed is just ludicrous.

But the reason why I think the President is going to be able to say, with a straight face, that the number of civilians killed has been minimal is not because he’s some kind of sophisticated liar. It’s because the military and the CIA have colluded to create a mathematical formula for determining when civilians are killed that will almost always result in the number zero. What I mean by that is what the “Drone Papers” show us, these classified top secret documents, is that when any drone strike is conducted, there is only one “objective” or target. Each drone strike is aimed at killing one individual, not five individuals (except in the case of signature strikes which we can talk about later).

In the case of Anwar al-Awlaki, for instance, Anwar al-Awlaki was the target of a drone strike, but that drone strike also killed Samir Khan, who was a Pakistani American who had gone over to Yemen and was writing for Inspire magazine. He was killed in that strike, but he was not the target of that strike. One Republican congressman said at the time that he was twofer, but Samir Khan would have been categorized as an enemy killed in action (EKIA), even if they didn’t know his identity. Now, in that case, you have two outspoken people, who were calling for global jihad, and there was not a lot of sympathy in those cases.

But if you look at this horrifying strike against the wedding party in Yemen that happened a couple Decembers ago, where more than a dozen people were killed—First of all, the person that was allegedly the target wasn’t there and wasn’t killed but a tremendous amount of other people were killed. And the immediate designation of all of those people was EKIA, and the standard that we reveal in these documents is that anyone whose identity is unknown is preemptively labeled an “enemy killed in action” unless they are clearly visible as women or small children. And the only way that designation is lifted is if they are posthumously proven not to have been terrorist or militants; you know, terms that are really difficult to define because the United States doesn’t respect international law.

What this means is that the President’s advisers can say, oh, we killed so-and-so in Pakistan, and there were ten other “enemies killed in action.” Unless the President says, “Well, do we know that they were enemies? Who were these people?” The assumption is just going to be we didn’t kill any civilians.

Regardless of what you think of the morality of this policy, on a very technical level, I think all Americans should be outraged at the idea that when we’re killing large numbers of people in Muslim countries around the world without knowing who they are, that we somehow are not going to pay a price later? That this is not going to be any blowback? That should a be a concern of everybody no matter where you fall on the political spectrum.

GOSZTOLA: The other thing that I really appreciate about this work is that, again, we have more information about the war in Afghanistan and how the war is being fought. But so often, we write this off. The Obama administration write it off as the “good war.” Democrats write it off as the “good war.” We also don’t talk about it. It doesn’t pop up in political discussions. We’ll talk about Iraq, but we don’t talk about Afghanistan at all, as far as what’s going on. So what were you able to learn from the source that gave you the “Drone Papers.”

SCAHILL: My colleague, Ryan Devereaux, who has worked with me since the “Blackwater” days, reported out the Afghanistan part of our story because we realized one person would have to do a really deep dive into those documents because they all pertained to a special operations kill/capture campaign called Operation Haymaker.

What the documents say in a nutshell is that during this operation, which spanned the course of the year, but during one five-month period that the military reviewed of this operation being conducted by Joint Special Operations Command, nearly 9 out of 10 people that were killed in mostly drone strike; there were some other forms of air strikes. Their identities were not known, and they were classified as “enemies killed in action,” which means that only ten percent of the people that were being killed in Afghanistan, which is a much easier battlefield in some cases to conduct drone strikes because you have bases within the country and you can send multiple assets at the same time—That they were killing a tremendous amount of unknown people.

The source for the “Drone Papers,” who had worked on these high-value targeting campaigns, as the Obama administration likes to call it, really described a sickening system, where there was a cavalier attitude about anyone who was around the cellphone that they believed to be a terrorist. Because the overwhelming number of cases, where people are killed in drone strikes, it’s not that they’re killing people. It’s that you’re blowing up a phone that you believe to be held by a person that you are hunting, and many drone operators and people who work on these targeting platforms never even know the actual name of the person that they are targeting. They’re either given a designation, like Sandbox 1 or Sandbox 2, and those are describing a SIM card or the phone that they have. And then they are given just a number on a screen and so they know they are tracking this series of numbers, and it’s a way of dehumanizing the enemy.

The other part of what Ryan reported on regarding Operation Haymaker is that you have the most elite forces in the U.S. military being unleashed in area of Afghanistan, where there was very little actual al Qaida or radical Taliban activity, and instead what ended up happening is the U.S. military’s most elite forces found themselves pulled into a turf war between rival factions that are based along tribal lines, not political lines, including timber wars—fighting over natural resources. These guys that are much vaunted and viewed as superheroes. They killed Osama bin Laden. They’re in the middle of a battle over trees that are being cut down in Afghanistan and not killing anyone that is even a member of al Qaida. I think they say in there they killed one individual in that whole year-long campaign, who actually had any links to al Qaida.

 Another critical development in the Obama administration is this expansion of warfare in the continent of Africa, which these documents address. I’m wondering when you look at what is in these documents related to the assassination complex, on one hand, please talk about Somalia and what’s going on, but also the destruction of an entire country in Libya—How is the assassination complex fueling that, especially when it seems like we’re almost into a new second or third round of warfare, where recent reports were that surveillance drones were sent into the country to survey the spread of militias once again?

SCAHILL: This is sort of the 1-2-3 punch of the Obama doctrine, where you have—You’re going to use a lot of drones, weaponized drones but also surveillance drones. You’re going to have small numbers of covert operations forces conducting direct actions, meaning targeting people unilaterally, not with foreign forces. And then you have this CIA-military attempt to build up local militia that can essentially implement the agenda of their paymasters from the United States, and of course, that opens the door for huge blowback, as we’ve seen over and over again throughout U.S. history.

Hillary Clinton now is viewed as the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party, although Bernie Sanders did have quite an upset in Indiana the other night. But let’s just assume for right now that Hillary looks like she’s going to be the nominee. Hillary is a legendary hawk. She is about regime change. She has much more common on a foreign policy level with Dick Cheney than she does with her average voter or average supporter. She is part of the bipartisan war party that really has governed this country for many, many decades.

She was one of the central people in the utter destruction of Libya, one of the people who was a key player in creating the conditions that led to Ambassador Chris Stevens being killed. Hillary Clinton, if you look at the documents that we have in the book about the kill chain and the bureaucracy of killing, what you’ll notice about that is at the very beginning of the process you have foreign governments feeding intelligence to the United States. Then it goes all the way up this pyramid, and Hillary Clinton and other American officials are an intricate part of signing off on these extrajudicial sentences for people around the world that are meted out usually in the form of a drone strike.

In Libya, in Syria, in Iraq, you now have this world as a battlefield mentality underway and JSOC is being let off the leash again. But I think the dog is now so far away from the yard that you can’t even call it back. We don’t even discuss foreign policy except through a narrow lens in this election year right now. There’s too many sneezes of Donald Trump to cover, which of his former interns was Ted Cruz sleeping with, and is John Kasich’s heart still beating. That’s what’s on news all day long. But there are hardcore issues. There is not a single person running for president from either major party that is against the assassination policy, that is against the compilation of a kill list.

Bernie Sanders, when asked by Chris Hayes recently at a Democratic town hall meeting, said as it’s being implemented under Obama, he supports the kill list, and Chris Hayes used the phrase the kill list and Bernie co-signed it. The other thing is Bernie hammers away at Hillary Clinton for her regime change politics, and I think he should, and she deserves to be held completely accountable. She is a total hawkish empire politician. But Bernie Sanders’ foreign policy is not that much better. It’s just that he hasn’t been in a position of authority the way that Hillary Clinton has as secretary of state.

Now, set aside climate change and other issues. Just looking at military policy. Bernie Sanders signed on to the Iraq Liberation Act in 1998, which was a product of the neoconservative Project for a New American Century. William Kristol, Donald Rumsfeld, Eliot Abrams, Paul Wolfowitz—these guys in 1998 wrote a letter to President Clinton that said you need to take Iraq seriously. Make it a major priority of U.S. national defense policy, and we should make regime change the law of the land. That then was translate into a bill that Bernie Sanders supported it and then signed into law. That was laying the ground work for a point of no return in terms of invading Iraq and overthrowing Saddam Hussein. Bernie Sanders was about regime change at the very, very beginning before Hillary Clinton even was in the Senate.

Bernie Sanders then went on to support the most brutal regime of economic sanctions in modern history against Iraq, and I spent a lot of time on the ground in Iraq during that period, where the U.S. policy was to try to starve and sort of target the healthcare system of ordinary Iraqis to try to encourage them to rise up against Saddam Hussein, and it only benefited Saddam Hussein.

So, while Bernie Sanders has said some amazing things about various aspects of the crooked criminal nature of various U.S. foreign policies—the coups in Guatemala and Iran. It’s all amazing to hear a major politician say that in the United States, but he gets away with sort of the hypocrisy of just hammering away on Hillary Clinton’s regime change stuff when he was on the wrong side of decision making in history when he was a lawmaker when the Iraq stuff was just starting. So, I mean, I think the fact that Bernie Sanders has come out in favor of drones, has basically said that he supports the maintenance of a kill list, and believes that these kind of targeted assassination operations make sense means we really don’t have an alternative in terms of the major political candidates on this issue.

GOSZTOLA: Just to follow up on the political question, and then we’ll get back to the book. An important political question is this issue of people who read our work on a daily basis, people who sympathize with what we do and are out doing organizing, but do give candidates like Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton when it comes to drone warfare, when it comes to regime change policies. And I think now it’s even more stark because I think what you say is very significant, the fact that this election’s going to become about Hillary Clinton playing the woman card or it’s going to become about the misogynistic sleazy attacks of Donald Trump, and the worst thing that people will say is that Donald Trump is going to become president and he’s going to have this assassination complex at his fingertips to wield around the world, but the fact of the matter is that there is a real thing that has to be confronted, which is the extent to which the left has made it possible to be available post-election.

SCAHILL: You cannot understate the significance of the role that President Obama has played over both terms of his administration in seeking to legitimize assassination as a central component of American policy. In the early days after 9/11, Richard Clarke, who was the counterterrorism czar under President Clinton and then carried over with the Bush people, was called to a secret hearing that’s since been declassified, a joint hearing of the House and Senate intelligence committees. The aim of the hearing was the Republicans were trying to blame Bill Clinton for 9/11. They were reviewing counterterrorism policy and why Bill Clinton didn’t kill Osama bin Laden.

During this secret hearing, Richard Clarke said there was a consensus within the Clinton administration that they did not want to give the impression of running an Israeli-style assassination ring around the world. And so, the Clinton administration put in talmudic regulations before you could actually pull the trigger in an operation that was going to kill someone like Osama bin Laden. You then fast-forward to the Obama era, and we’re hitting people left and right all over the globe with a very streamlined, almost scientific process for determining who lives and who dies on any given day.

The popularity of drone strikes, when it peaked in the seventies at one point [referring to poll numbers], and it didn’t decline much at all in the question of targeting a U.S. citizen in drone strike—I think can overwhelmingly be attributed to the fact that Obama was viewed as a transformative figure. He has tremendous support among the liberal base across the country. He is a constitutional lawyer by training. He won the Nobel Peace Prize, and people sort of check their conscience at the door when their guy is in power.

Over the past two days, I’ve been called both a “Bernie Bro” and a “Hillary Bot,” and what seems to not get across to these dingbats is I’m not a politician, and I’m not a partisan. Journalists, our job is to provide people with critical information. I am not in Bernie’s camp. I am not in Hillary’s camp. I am not in Trump’s camp. Real journalists will be the same journalists when there is a Democrat or Republican in the White House, and they’re not going to pull punches or withhold facts just because someone they may like more than the other person—That’s not journalism.

Do I think that Bernie has a tremendous number of great ideas? Of course, I do, but I’m not Bernie’s political advisor. I’m a journalist, and I think that Bernie should be whacked with criticism for the hypocrisy of going after Hillary Clinton when he also has been a part of that machine. Hillary is low-hanging fruit to go after because she is so hawkish. It’s almost like a parody of the one-party foreign policy system in this country that Hillary is running. Jeb Bush would not be much different than Hillary Clinton on any one of these issues. In fact, he may be a little less hawkish than Hillary Clinton on some of these issues. So, all of these people should be put under the microscope of scrutiny and not because of any of this personal crap that people are talking about. We should have an audit of who they are in public, and so often the focus is on who they are screwing in private.

GOSZTOLA: To the book, the issue of secrecy, but let’s tie to what we just discussed here. One of the more absurd things that has been said in the last year by people who are whispering to media and are close to Hillary Clinton is that because her emails have information in them about the drone program, they’ve claimed that this information is “innocuous,” even though you are doing really hard work. There are people whose lives are on the line, whose livelihoods are at risk. There’s the ACLU, who is fighting in court to get this information released. Just talk about the secrecy element here.

SCAHILL: First of all, Hillary Clinton attempted to say, oh, Colin Powell did this when he was secretary of state and Madeleine Albright did this as well. I mean, Colin Powell still has an AOL address. This is not a fair comparison. Hillary Clinton and her husband setup a private server in a bathroom at their house. This was not just something of convenience. They went to great lengths to circumvent a system that would allow her emails to be subjected to the Freedom of Information Act, and I think one of the big major drudge sirens that should be going off about the Clinton thing is Clinton Global Foundation’s role in agitating for Hillary to be using that private email.

The thing is, Hillary is playing with words because what Hillary is saying is no one sent me classified information or documents on this email. That may or may not be true. I’ve heard there were some actual classified documents sent, but we’ll wait and see what comes out. But what we do know is she is playing with the term classified because when Huma Abedin or any of these other advisors or particularly when other officials at the State Department would send Hillary Clinton information about what was happening in a variety of countries around the world, those emails were not classified. But the information in them, when put through the appropriate classification procedure, would certainly have been classified.

This is not a nothing burger. Bernie Sanders said we don’t give a damn about your emails. We should give a damn about her emails, if for no other reason than the violent double standard. People like David Petraeus and Hillary Clinton and John Brennan have all been involved in leaking information or mishandling classified information and almost nothing happens to any of them. And then you’ve got Chelsea Manning doing 30 years in a military prison.

I was saying last night at an event in New York, just watch the “Collateral Murder” video. Try to tell me that exposing that operation was not a tremendous act of heroism on the part of Chelsea Manning, and that’s true of all sorts of documents that were published then by WikiLeaks. Yet, she is repaid for what I think was an act of patriotism because she was speaking out against these crimes being committed by U.S. people—She’s doing 35 years. Edward Snowden is in exile in Moscow. Tom Drake had his public life ruined. He was smeared and dragged through the mud. Bill Binney had his house raided while he was taking a shower. All of these people, who were whistleblowers, have been targeted in an attempt to destroy them or imprison them. And this administration is waging an all-out war against whistleblowers, and by virtue of that, against an independent press.

Then, you have Hillary Clinton, who is the embodiment of the establishment, running around, cackling and laughing off questions about her mishandling of classified information and conspiring with her husband and his organization to setup a private server in her bathroom with the express point of circumventing the laws governing communications of a sitting secretary of state. That is a huge scandal, but instead, we have the Espionage Act being applied to people who try to speak out about unconstitutional activity.


GOSZTOLA: I want to talk about these whistleblowers. I’ll put it in this context just because I was very moved by your tribute to Father Daniel Berrigan over on “Democracy Now!” and I’ve been reading about him. When I think about the way that people who are part of the liberal establishment turn these people into sort of radical pariahs that we’re not supposed to follow, it’s very disturbing.

It happens a lot to these whistleblowers, like Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning. You get a lot of—I guess some people might call this hippie-punching. But you have this happening, and it’s rather disturbing. This is a moral issue. These are people who are taking moral stands regardless of what the outcome may be. They’re told that they’re not going to be able to change anything, but it doesn’t matter because when you think about it, something just has to be done to confront the system regardless of whether the political system can be changed.

SCAHILL: Right. Chris Hayes, the other night on his show—I think he was the only person in corporate media to do any kind of a meaningful tribute on his show. You know, he and his brother, Philip Berrigan, were radical Catholic priests, who conducted the most high-profile faith-based action of the Vietnam War era, and one of the most high-profile actions against the Vietnam War period when they went into the customs house in Catonsville, Maryland, with seven others and in full view of the clerks stole out of the cabinets draft files that were being used to send young people to the war in Vietnam. Of course, poor people of color were disproportionately sent to that war. And then they burned them in the parking lot with homemade napalm.

Daniel Berrigan read a statement on behalf of the group, part of which read, our apologies, good friends, for the fracture of good order, for the burning of paper instead of children. Devastating, chilling, beautiful commentary on the hypocrisy of American society knowing they would be arrested and put in prison for using homemade napalm against pieces of paper while the people that were dropping napalm on villages in Vietnam were being hailed internally as heroes. The country’s position on that, of course, evolved, and eventually, it was viewed as the criminal war that it was by many, many people.

But when Chris Hayes played a clip the other night of Daniel Berrigan, it was from 1981. It was Chris Wallace, who is now the host of “Fox News Sunday.” The most legitimate connection he has to actual journalism is that his father was Mike Wallace, the legendary “60 Minutes” journalist, but in 1981, he’s interviewing Daniel Berrigan and he says to him, basically, you’re a nobody now. Year ago, you were a big deal, and people paid attention to what you were doing. Wallace doesn’t mention that one year before that interview, Daniel Berrigan had organized an action as part of the Plowshares Eight, where they snuck into the General Electric plant in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, and hammered on Mark-12A nuclear warhead cones, and then sparked a global movement that did that. But Daniel Berrigan responds to Chris Wallace by essentially saying who we are and why we do what we do is not tethered to the other end of a television cord. It was a brilliant response.

Should we be concerned with wanting to be effective? Of course, we should, but if you’re obsessed with efficacy at the expense of doing what’s right, then I think that’s the problem that a lot of people face in our society. And it’s part of the problem with just being attached to our computers all the time. The real work is done away from our electronic devices or our electronic devices are with us when we’re out doing something. The greatest thing about Dan Berrigan I think is that he showed up. He was always there, and he was fond of saying don’t just say something. Stand there. I think there’s a lot of wisdom that younger folks, who are concerned about these issues can learn by studying the people who came before them and not just look at the last thing that was tweeted.

GOSZTOLA: We have these sources that are coming forward and are willing to share information, even though they may have to flee the United States and no longer live with their families anymore, even though it may make it impossible for them to get a job ever again. But also, in a different part of this, you’ve got the activists, who some of them are taking action. When I listen to Daniel Berrigan, I thought of them too because we have organizations like CODEPINK or we have smaller community organizations in upstate New York that will go to these air force bases that are actually taking risks. Some are even put on these lists, where they’re not even allowed to be near the base anymore because they’re allegedly going to pose a risk to a colonel, who they don’t know. They’ve never ever seen.

You also have people traveling. I know Daniel Berrigan talked about being in Vietnam when the U.S. bombs were dropping, and I thought about CODEPINK has gone to Pakistan to visit people and see the destruction there. I just wondered about connecting that part, the fact that there really are people out there challenging this.

SCAHILL: During the Vietnam War, one of the things that became very common—in addition to the raids of draft boards that took place in cities around the country, where activists would go in and destroy in some way or another the draft files. Individual people would publicly burn their draft cards, and they would go to jail. There were several cases of young people, who had done this, and they felt they were part of a community that had done this. When they ended up going to jail, they were dropped by everybody, and left in solitary in jail and came out very shattered and destroyed people. Everyone will cheer on someone doing the big action, but then when they have to pay up personally, and they end up going to jail, who is going to continue to support those people when they do it?

That’s why I think the lives of Daniel and Philip are so interesting because they had a commitment to trying to spend a solid percentage of their life behind bars. Not just with their comrades who were arrested with them in resistance, but with people who were convicted of everyday crimes or of violent crimes, because those people are also a part of our society.

I think that it’s been disgraceful the way that the New York Times has handled Chelsea Manning’s case. They splashed those files and stories about the WikiLeaks files on the front page for a sustained period of time, and they had to be shamed by you and Alexa O’Brien and others, independent, low-funded journalists were doing the daily coverage of that trial, and the New York Times had to be shamed into covering it. Plus, the CNN producer was sleeping all the time, according to Alexa’s tweets. I love following how the one corporate journalist there can’t even stay awake during the proceedings. But that’s a commentary on why we need independent media, and also why we need to support whistleblowers and amplify their voices. When the government comes for them, speaking out and being there is so essential. You can’t just drop people like litter on the ground when you have used the information given to you at risk to publish news stories. You have to be there for your sources.

GOSZTOLA: As we wrap, any final thoughts? Anything from the book that you want to share before we conclude?

SCAHILL: My pleasure, Kevin. Thank you again for the work that you and your team are doing. I really look forward to seeing what Shadowproof is going to become, and the story’s that you are going to be breaking.

Our book was a huge collective effort. There are a lot of people, as you know, who are a part of great reporting that don’t get the byline. They research for you. They help you with logistical stuff. They lay your website out. They do all these things, and so many people worked on it. What we tried to do is create—It’s only like 280-pages long, but we tried to create a living document that people could use as a reference to understand the watchlisting process, and what we understand from inside, from whistleblowers, about how the assassination complex works, especially since we know President Obama is going to try historically revise what actually happened over the past two administrations.

The other thing I would say is when whistleblowers come under the sights of the sniper scope of the American state, that people be there for them, and that they stand up and not drop them. Chelsea Manning still needs people’s voice and support. It’s one thing to be there when the act of resistance is ongoing, and it’s in the media. It’s when the cameras go away, and the sentence is handed down that you really see who is with you and who is not.

GOSZTOLA: Thank you, Jeremy. I expect throughout this general election we’re going to see Hillary Clinton trying to prove to us that she’s a smarter warrior-in-chief than Donald Trump will ever be. So, we’ll need your clarity on these issues of the drone war and assassination complex.

SCAHILL: It’s great: choosing between a fascist and a politician of the empire. It’s just a wonderful collection that we have in this country.

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."